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Issue #1431      14 October 2009

Global effort in support of Bangladeshi shipbreakers

The International Metalworkers’ Federation has joined a global campaign calling on G20 heads of state to protect workers in one of the world’s most dangerous industries - shipbreaking.

A new report produced by the US-based National Labour Committee titled Shipbreaking in Bangladesh & The Failure of Global Institutions to Protect Worker Rights, documents conditions for some 30,000 workers, many of them children just 10 to 13 years old, who break apart massive decommissioned tanker ships, 650 to 1,000 feet long and 20 stories high, which are run up onto the beaches of Bangladesh. According to the report, the shipbreakers are forced to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for wages of just 22 to 32 cents an hour, doing one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Workers, who often lack even the most minimal safety protections, are injured and maimed every day and on average a worker is killed every three weeks.

As part of the global effort to raise standards in Bangladesh shipbreaking yards, unions are signing on to an electronic petition which will be sent to this year’s chair of the G20, Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown, with a copy to US President Barack Obama.

The petition calls for an end to child labour, the enforcement of basic labour law protections in Bangladesh shipyards and the implementation of basic safety provisions.

“The ten countries – many G20 members – and ten shipping companies that dominate global merchant cargo trade must guarantee that all toxic waste will be removed before ships are sent to Bangladesh – or India, Pakistan, China or Turkey – for scrapping,” reads part of the petition signed by the International Metalworkers’ Federation.

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